New Floating Wind Array Planned in Scotland

The world’s first floating wind turbine array could be installed offshore of northeast Scotland by 2017 if a project recently unveiled by Kincardine Offshore Windfarm Ltd. proceeds as planned.

The joint project between Pilot Offshore Renewables and the construction giant Atkins entails the installation of eight turbines on semi-submersible platforms about 8 miles off the fishing port of Stonehaven, in waters that are about 60 meters (m) to 80 m deep. Kincardine wants to begin construction in the second quarter of 2016 to have the wind farm operating by the end of 2017.

Several developers have proposed floating offshore wind arrays off the coasts of the UK, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, and the U.S., touting the use of semi-submersible platforms as a means to cut construction and installation costs, because they remove the need for costly foundations. Floating offshore wind turbines can also be located in deeper waters and take advantage of stronger winds.

According to Navigant Consulting, 1.7 GW of offshore capacity was installed in 2013 worldwide—mostly in Europe—bringing the total capacity to 7 GW. New and expanding projects are likely to contribute a record-setting 2.2 GW in 2014 alone, mostly in Germany and the UK. “Globally, offshore wind projects continue to trend further from shore into increasingly deeper waters,” explained Bruce Hamilton, who directs research at Navigant’s energy arm, this May.

Hamilton noted that Principle Power deployed a full-scale 2-MW prototype WindFloat turbine off the coast of Aguçadoura, Portugal (Figure 3), a system that has since produced more than 9 GWh delivered by subsea cable to the local grid. Japan also has two experimental floating 2-MW Hitachi turbines and plans to put a new Mitsubishi 7-MW turbine on a semi-submersible platform this year.

3. Floating through. The current 2-MW WindFloat prototype off the coast of Aguçadoura, Portugal, could be expanded to five platforms. A final build-out phase is planned to have a capacity of 150 MW. Courtesy: Principle Power

Among notable floating projects proposed are Principle Power and Deepwater Wind’s five floating platforms, each with a 6-MW turbine, off Coos Bay in southern Oregon, and Statoil’s proposed 30-MW venture planned for the Buchan Deep site, about 19 miles off Peterhead in Scotland. The European Commission has also awarded funding to Principle Power to build a 27-MW second phase consisting of five WindFloat platforms developed by Principle Power, with a final build-out phase that could have a capacity of 150 MW.

“However, the costs for the initial projects are very high, and as with any new technology configuration, years of testing will be required to understand how reliable and economical the technology can be,” cautions Steve Sawyer, secretary-general for the Global Wind Energy Council. “And then the challenge will be the same as for the current round of offshore deployment, that is to say how to get the scale-up required to make the economics work.”

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)